Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Spirituality in Islam
Man is an intellectual being. He is endowed with a mind, which is his greatest faculty. It is only the possession of this mind and his independent thinking, which distinguish him from the animals. Real spirituality is that which has the power to address our minds. Any kind of spirituality attained at a level lesser than that of our minds is not true spirituality. All forms of ecstasy are just reduced forms of spirituality.
When a scientist discovers the scientific world, he doesn’t leave the material world, but rather stays here, studies and makes discoveries in this very world. Spirituality is also a science. Consequently, in spiritual science the same method is valid, i.e. undergoing spiritual experiences while remaining in the material world.
Spirituality, in fact, is a process of converting our everyday material events into spiritual experiences. While living his social life, man is affected by events, which trigger negative thoughts such as malice, lust, anger, arrogance, greed, etc. But when man raises himself above his immediate surroundings, i.e. from the material level to a higher level of thinking, he experiences real spirituality. At this elevated level, man is able to eradicate his negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Thus we can say that there are two levels of thinking — the lower level and the higher level. A higher level of thinking makes man a spiritual person and a lower level of thinking results in the ‘animalization’ of man, in which state there is no appreciable difference between the life of a man and that of an animal.
Spirituality, as an intellectual activity, is a science of inner development, and material things indirectly contribute towards that development. In fact, material life is made more meaningful by the proactive role played by spirituality in intellectual refinement and the consequent progress of humanity. Spirituality does not, as some may imagine, arrest the thinking process, but rather enhances intellectual activity in the complete sense of the word. In short, spirituality makes a man a superman. It is a complete way of life.
Spirituality, in its awakening of the mind, provides the best formula for character building. It is a great strength at all times. Spirituality, in effect, is a promoter of all good and a killer of all evils.
This is the principle on which the entire material world is based. It may be called the principle of conversion. For instance, let us take the case of water. Two gases separately are not water, but, when they combine and convert into another form, they take the form of water. The same is true of the tree. A tree is, in fact, the result of the conversion of non-botanical matter.
The cow provides another such example. The cow ingests not milk, but grass. Then by means of a biological process, this grass is converted into milk. That is to say, the cow is an industry, which converts non-milk into milk. An Urdu poet has expressed the same reality:
“The grass which the cow grazed on yesterday in the jungle, was converted by her into milk today.”
It is said that once a young man met an elderly person, who was devoutly religious. The young man took umbrage at something the elderly person had said to him and kicked him in the chest. This was an incident of a gravely negative nature. But the old man converted this negative experience into a positive one by responding with these words: “I hope your gentle foot was not hurt by my hard stony chest.”
This is an example of a truly spiritual person.
Spirituality activates that intellectual process which is necessary for the development of one’s personality through the Art of Deconditioning. Indeed, spirituality is the greatest source of crisis management. A spiritual person can bear every loss, for he feels that any loss, which is material in nature, is always far less in comparison to what he still has in his possession in terms of spirituality and that is a treasure that no one can take away from him.
True spirituality, as therefore an intellectual activity, is a science of inner development, and material things indirectly contribute towards that development. In fact, material life is made more meaningful by the proactive role played by spirituality in intellectual refinement and the consequent progress of humanity. Spirituality does not, as some may imagine, arrest the thinking process, but rather enhances intellectual activity in the complete sense of the word. In short, it is a complete way of life.